Troy Mattson retires after 17 years leading women’s basketball program


CALLING IT A CAREER—Troy Mattson has announced his retirement as the women’s basketball head coach after 17 seasons of leading the program. Photo courtesy of NMU Athletics.

Travis Nelson, Sports Editor

A staple in Northern Michigan University athletics for almost 40 years, women’s basketball head coach Troy Mattson announced his retirement after 17 seasons of leading the Wildcats’ program.

Mattson took over the women’s program in 2005 and ranks second all-time in wins with 240. Over the course of his tenure, Mattson had three teams make the NCAA Tournament while qualifying for the GLIAC Tournament in his last 11 seasons at the helm. Mattson is a veteran coach and his career was coming to the end, and he felt this was the right time to hang it up.

“There’s a lot of reasons why, but one of the big things was that I didn’t feel it in my heart anymore and my mind anymore that I could give 100% to the program,” Mattson said. “As we’re always trying to get on players about giving 100% and being totally in, I don’t think I’m totally in, so it’s time to step down.”

Another reason that Mattson mentioned was the recruiting aspect. The Wildcats only lose one senior in guard Elizabeth Lutz, so the team has a lot of retention from this past season’s squad. Mattson wasn’t very involved in the team’s newest recruit to fill that spot, and that helped because he didn’t want to go with a big class coming in, and he also didn’t want to lie to parents and athletes that he was going to be there, Mattson said.

Coming up as a local product from Westwood High School in Ishpeming Township, Mattson was a point guard for the Wildcats from 1982-85. After his playing days, Mattson began his coaching career at Munising High School in 1985-86, and then went on to become the men’s and women’s assistant at Lake Superior State from 1986-88. Since 1988, Mattson has been in the green and gold when he joined the men’s staff. He was later elevated to associate head coach in 1994, a position he served until taking the women’s head coaching job in 2005. 

Anyone can tell you that coaching is a demanding job at all levels, and that goes for college without even mentioning the neverending job of going out on the road and recruiting. Mattson won’t miss the long hours, but he’ll miss what makes sports what they are when two teams take the court and battle for 40 minutes.

“The competition part is something that’s special,” Mattson said. “I can honestly say, I’m not going to miss the whole grind work of practices, recruiting, dealing with people and parents every single day. But I will miss the competition part, I love competing, I always enjoyed competing. Preparing your team and stepping out on the court and giving it your all every single night is probably the biggest thing that I’ll miss.”

Mattson will have very little involvement in finding his replacement, and once he helps the new coach with the transition of taking the program over, he said that he is out the door. Mattson said he will be back to watch the girls that he recruited to play and will continue to support the men’s basketball program to the fullest extent, but that will be it.

“As for me to going around and putting my nose in the gym and watching practices or adding input, I don’t want that,” Mattson said. “I see that happen too often at the high school level, I see that happen at the college level, and I don’t think that’s the way that you should go about your business.”

Mattson thinks that the program is in good hands with a lot of young players that will continue to grow. Along with a lot of youngsters who logged minutes, the team will still feature guard Makaylee Kuhn, who Mattson called, “a premier player in all of the Midwest.”

Some of the girls knew that Mattson was going to be calling it quits soon, but perhaps not this quick, he said. Mattson also remained proud of the fact that his team had the highest team GPA on campus last semester, and that the new coach will be getting great people and a team that’s willing to put in 100%.

Mattson was recruited to NMU and played under Glenn Brown, and coached under Dean Ellis. He also outlasted two men’s coaches’ tenures in Doug Lewis and Bill Sall, and three seasons of current coach Matt Majkrzak. In a career that’s tested time of almost 40 years as a Wildcat, Mattson is a thankful man for his time spent here.

“I was very fortunate that people believed in me as a player and as a coach for all these years,” Mattson said. “What I think I give them in return is an honest day’s work every single day. I recruited extremely hard, we practiced hard, we competed hard. I’m very proud about whether we had a great team or a middle of the pack team, I’m very proud of the efforts we gave every single day.”

“Just everything about the whole process of what goes on in being a college coach and how you translate to college athletes. As I told people, I’m walking out of here with my head held high, and that’s the way it’s going to be.”